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Spike Eskin: Charlie Manuel’s Last Laugh

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By Spike Eskin

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Baseball is a funny game.

No matter how many people tell you (and many have told me) they truly believed in July that the Phillies would make the playoffs this year, they’re lying. There’s a big difference between predicting something unbelievable will happen, and really believing it. Bet your life on it? No, probably not.

For all intents and purposes, the Phillies were dead.

At the trade deadline, and shortly after, the Phillies themselves admitted they were dead. The closed the coffin. They traded Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino, and Joe Blanton, and filled their every day lineups with guys like Dom Brown, Kevin Frandsen and Erik Kratz. The bullpen brought out pitcher after pitcher that you’ve never heard of.

The 2012 Phillies were failures, Charlie Manuel was getting more than his share of the blame. Even people who say the manager doesn’t much affect the outcome of a baseball game (hi Dad), were saying Manuel was responsible.

The Jimmy Rollins hustle fiasco happened, and the calls of “Charlie’s lost the team, he’s gotta go,” lit the board when I was working at WIP. “He’s just not the right guy for this team anymore,” I heard. One gentleman suggested that Manuel was responsible for 10-15 losses the Phillies suffered this year.

I don’t think I’m the only one that ever got the feeling that even Ruben Amaro Jr. isn’t the biggest Charlie Manuel fan in the world.

And then, this run happened, and there is Charlie, doing it the exact same way he’s always done it. Inside, laughing at everyone who said he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Those who said that he’s not good enough at strategy. That he doesn’t go to his closer in the eigth enough, that he bunts at the wrong time. He can’t manage a small ball team!

This run, that if it ends with the Phillies in the playoffs, will go down in history as one of the greatest runs in baseball history. He’s not saying “I told you so,” but you know he’s thinking it. He’s not waiving his middle finger around at press conferences, but he’d have every right.

The last two weeks have been full of talk about Ryne Sandberg becoming the next Phillies manager. Many have suggested that if they don’t give him the job next year, they might lose him. That the Phillies should bump Charlie up somewhere and move Sandberg into that role. If that’s going to happen now, it’s only going to be because Manuel feels like it, and I’m guessing he won’t.

When you were a teenager, grown-ups would remind you that you don’t know everything. That experience and trips around the block count for something. You didn’t buy it for a second. And as you become a grown-up, you realize they were right.

Charlie Manuel is Roger Sterling. Charlie Manuel is Bert Cooper. Charlie Manuel is Hector Salamanca (DING!). He is Mr. Feeny. Charlie Manuel as Hannibal Smith. Charlie is Walt Kowalski.

If Charlie is going out, he’s going out swinging. A reminder that maybe we don’t know everything.

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